By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsJune 26, 2010
The Army's top noncommissioned officer visited Soldiers in southern Iraq to see how they are living in a deployed environment and to answer questions about the way ahead as the drawdown in Iraq approaches.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, the Army's senior enlisted member, visited Soldiers of United States Division-South at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Patrol Base Minden, and the Shalamcha Point of Entry along the Iraq-Iran border.
At PB Minden, which is occupied by Soldiers from one of his former units, the 10th Cavalry Regiment, Preston had a chance to see fitness, recreation, dining and living facilities for the troopers, which he said play a role in the readiness of a unit.
"What goes on in the dining facility is a big part of the morale, part of the esprit de corps; it's where units and organizations come together," Preston said.
Down the road from Minden, Preston saw border operations first hand at Shalamcha POE along the Iranian border, where Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division prevent smugglers from bringing contraband into Iraq.
After Shalamcha, Preston flew to Contingency Operating Base Basra, home of the United States Division-South headquarters, where he held a town hall meeting to address issues and answer any questions.
Preston, a native of Mount Savage, Md., said such meetings help him gauge where his priorities should lie.
"I can tell by the questions you ask, what's on your mind, things we need to do a better job at getting information out, and things we need to fix in the future," he said.
Spc. Joshua Mitchell, an air traffic controller with the 1st Infantry Division headquarters, said as the son of a retired sergeant major, he has a unique appreciation for the sergeant major of the Army taking time out of his schedule to talk to troops.
"It allows me to remember the things my father did and went through," said Mitchell, a Fort Riley, Kan., native. "That's a lot of long nights and no weekends so the significance of the time and determination it takes to reach that rank is something I look up to."
Preston fielded questions on a variety of topics, from future uniforms and uniform policies to how the drawdown in Iraq impacts dwell time.
After the question and answer session, Preston left the troops with praise for the job they are doing in Iraq.
"We're very proud of the mission you're doing over here right now. We're very proud of all the things you've accomplished," he said. "We want you to finish up your mission over here and get back to your Families."